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Video: Signature in the Cell

Dr. Stephen Meyer discusses his new book Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design.

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53 Responses to Video: Signature in the Cell

  1. Very nice presentation. Even though I am an ID proponent, I am not satisfied with the “best explanation” argument used by Dr. Meyer. I am not sure why he feels the need to use it since his intial argument re the exponential explosion of DNA coding possibilities, destroys all naturalistic explanations for the origin of cellular life. The only explanation left is intelligent design. What could be simpler? So, in my opinion, there is no need to use the “best explanation” argument.

  2. 2
    CannuckianYankee

    Mapou,

    I think that he uses the “best explanation” argument to avoid something that the other side seems to do sometimes, and that is to assume that evolution is not contingent – that it is a final explanation.

    I think he’s merely being modest in understanding that no scientific theory has the final word. We merely rely on the best explanation. Not that we are wrong, it’s just allowing that we either might be, or that new information will substantiate the basics of what we now see, but possibly either refute some of the specifics, or expand on what we already know.

    Not long ago Heliocentrism was the best explanation. It proved to be incorrect, but based on the evidence that was then available, it was scientifically correct.

    Dr. Meyer is allowing for new information that might either refute the argument for design, or perhaps enhance it with more explicit detail.

    I liked the presentation as well. I’m definitely going to purchase the book. Then I think we’ll see his argument for the DEGREEE to which ID is the best explanation, and I think that would be of greater interest to me. Will he wow us or merely restate what has already been stated elsewhere?

  3. In regards to the point about the power of chance as an explanitory tool in biology, I have to demurr. I think that chance cannot really be an explanation but in fact only a gap stop. “Chance of the gaps”- You see when human beings talk about chance there is a materialistic illusion – call it “the chance delusion” to be tongue-in-cheek. When chance is usually implied one is usually saying that something happened (like a mutation) for no other reason than the fact that it just happened-perhaps because ti was bound to by a natural law like shuffle of the field. But one does not know really whether a designer is acting or not in a given mutation regardless of what the chances are- especially if they are very low as in complex biology.- What chance actually denotes is the “unpredictability” of a specific event or mean quantity of events. But unpredictability is actually more of a statement about “prophesy” than proximate causality or adequate explanation.

    Take cards for example- you have 2 aces and low and behold on your next hit you get another ace. Assuming that no one is rigging the deck that ace would be said to have come up by chance. But it really did nothing of the kind. That ace obeyed laws of physics, necessity and contingency, and actual step by step events to reach your hand. Some event – in the regress- (say the shuffle) resulted in the order of the cards so that the ace was dealt. As a general, and ultimate rule, you always need to appeal back to more and more complexity and specificity in order to get the resources and information necessary to account and explain the origin of a SC structure.

    There is no chance in materialism. Chance is really an illusion in materialism because it is besides the point. There is a physical explanation of “how” things occur and how likely they are to occur only makes the origin more or less rich in information. So the question is ONLY “is there meditated or premeditated design involved in the organization of life?

    We can talk about chance and likelihood and do probabilities all day to see how likely an event is based on what we know about the event- but ultimately the information must come from some event itself- and that event needs a scientifically adequate explanation or description. An intelligent designer which is not in time and space is the most likely candidate for the complex life forms and the process required to account for the complexity in life.

  4. I really would have liked for Meyer to have gotten into the debate of whether a transcendent intelligent explanation is scientific. I would have liked some Plato quotes and an explanation of how physical and metaphysical philosophy have always been at heads- how there have always been those who say mind gives rise to existence and those who say existence gave rise to mind.

    Plato said that geometry was the study of the eternal- that was based on his concept that a circle was the highest geometric character and that it only had one said with no beginning and no end- a closed loop. But now we know fro the big bang evidence and non-euclidean geometry that things are not as simple as a circle- that there most likely has been a singularity – an dhence a beginnig and that within a system when singularities turn into super specified complex feilds there is required some sort of explanation for that process.

    I guess I just would have liked a little philosophy of science education about why the argument that a metaphysical explanation (rooted in a real experience based cause and effect explanation (ID)) should not be ruled out scientifically by any rational authority- person or argument.

    Science has a method which ID fallows (hypothesis, data collection/evidence, experimentation with probabilities and reverse engineering, etc)- but Science itself is fundamentally the search for new discoveries and the best understanding of the world. And of course this includes discoveries and understandings which are first and foremost true.

  5. 5
    CannuckianYankee

    Frost,

    “An intelligent designer which is not in time and space is the most likely candidate for the complex life forms and the process required to account for the complexity in life.”

    Correct, but the real issue is how we synthesize the designer with science. Some say it can’t be done. I say it can’t be done to an extent. We can’t assume that the designer is necessarily outside of nature, because we are currently positing (with strong objections from the other side) that evidence for design is right inside of nature.

    There are also very legitimate theological objections to this synthesis. We don’t want to view God as an object for scientific investigation, because such an act might diminish our reverence for Him; but that is a consideration, obviously, only for believers.

    Now scripture states: “My ways are past finding out,” which is admittedly a theological argument. However, this makes some logical sense to me as well. We can’t discover how the designer designed, because perhaps the answer is so infinitely complex that once a question is answered it leads to another question ad infinitum (or at least beyond our limited comprehension).

    But as Dr. Behe wrote “The Edge of Evolution,” where is the “Edge of design?” Does it lie in the limits of discerning the “is” of design and confining the “how” of design to speculation, or to simply an unknown?

    The materialists state there is no design, yet they still argue about the “supernatural” as if it were an actuality – “science cannot deal with the supernatural.”

    Correct, but who says that design is going on supernaturally? That seems to be a prior assumption we will have to arguably and forcefully do away with if we are to reach an agreement in science as to what constitutes evidence for design. Otherwise we will continue to have the debate ad infinitum in the same way that scripture argues “My ways are past finding out.”

    I think what is going on right now is that ID is attempting to argue it’s case within the rules set out by methodological naturalism, and in so doing; limiting what can be discussed to the design itself (the “is”) and not going beyond into the “how.”

    If we can demonstrate more cleary that MN is philosophically driven by a prior commitment to philosophical (metaphysical) naturalism, which on one hand denies the “supernatural,” and then on the other states that science cannot deal with the “supernatural” (and of course we can ask, “which is it?”), then I think we can open the door to where ID can proceed.

    Right now I think we’re at a roadblock because of the predominance of methodological naturalism. Darwinists (I think rightfully so) ask us why we don’t talk about who the designer is and how [He] designed as a discussion within science, but they fail to understand our contention that we are limited by their refusal to broaden the definition of science. I don’t mean that the definition of science needs to be broadened to allow all “supernatural” ideas, but to broaden the definition to allow evidence for what we now call “supernatural” if such evidence could be shown. In other words, what is sufficient for doing science is not defined by methodological naturalism, but is broader – going wherever the evidence may lead.

    Meyers makes these distinctions, but you are correct that he did not do so in this presentation. Perhaps the book will go into these issues more in-depth; at least more in-depth than I can go.

  6. Meyer is superb.

    I’ve witnessed a number of debates in which he has participated. He always stays on topic concerning science, logic, and evidence, while his opponents almost invariably bring up irrelevant arguments concerning the problem of evil, the inevitable destruction of science by people who dare to propose the ID hypothesis, and the dangers of an impending theocracy should ID be considered as a valid proposition.

    It seems to me that Darwinists are almost universally desperate to defend the indefensible in light of modern science, as they should be.

  7. Cannukian,

    My point is that Meyer’s degree is in Philosophy and so I would have loved a little talk about Plato, Epicurus, Kant and now with the discoveries in the cell and in cosmology such as the big bang (which Meyer noted) and all of the other privileged planet arguments- how the view of science and philiosphy has changed.

    Plato the great meta physicist, then Epicurus the great materialist/empiricist – then you had Hume and finally Kant who tried to synthesize them. In Kant’s COPR he shows why the supernatural must be left open to reason but that it is no good if it does not “explain” or shed light on the question at hand. Well with the new discoveries in the cell Design really does she light on how the information required for these systems must have or could have come from outside of matter and laws alone. This constitutes an enlightening distinction which can result in a reverse engineering perspective for science one that Francis Crick used when elucidating the structure and function of DNA.

    My my point in a nut shell is that ID looses at the intellectual level when the materialists define the rules of the debate. This is exactly what you said above about supernaturalism-

    Meyer and others need to do a slightly better job at defining a concise history of philosophy and explain why ID – that is an appeal to a non-empirically detected agent – or an agent only detected by its effects- or a supernatural agent- is perfectly within cogent reasoning and rationalization and is hence scientific so long as it is based on the real world evidence- that it makes it’s case across competing lines of explanatory power- and sheds some useful light on the topic/question at hand.

    Science seeks a better and more accurate understanding of things. Science is the study of anyhting or the search for true knowledge – or even more simply it is the search for Truth. The “Scientific Method” is the process whereby it is done- Sceince is NOT a verb- the reason the materialists want to define science as a verb and al of that (even though if you look it up in the dictionary it is a noun by no surprise) s because they are seeking to redefine it to be an unguided process itself. If they can liberate science from the shackles of truthfulness then they can illegitimately limit it’s domain to only the kinds of things they like- “material” things that is.

  8. Lastly two more things,

    First in regards to the definition of science issue… When I was in middle school al my science teacher would say is that “ology” meant “the study of”

    To Psy-chology was the study of the psyche

    Sociology was the study of society.

    Geology etc

    All of these “ologys” were sciences so to me the word science as the sphere under which all these studies fall, is basically the “The study of subjects.”

    Secondly, the most powerful part of his argument is the part about the functions of the DNA and the coding of the proteins and such- that is how the digital code is actualized. I thought he did an ok job explaining this but I hope will will get a little better at making the distinction between matter, function and information in the future.

    Overall he did a good job though. I just want this argument from digital information in biology to really manifest and stick because i think it is super cogent and ultimately, true.

  9. 9
    CannuckianYankee

    Frost,

    I agree with you to an extent. However, I think he might have lost his audience if he had done so in the presentation – that is – discuss the broader philosophical history of design v. naturalism. I think it gets more complicated sometimes than the science itself.

    Also, I think there is some prejudice among many scientific theorists and researchers that philosophers of science cannot really talk empirically about science; and Meyer aims to prove them wrong by arguing within just the empirical stream, and not exclusively outside that perspective. If he can pursuade within that context, he can then go on into the broader context with what IS going on and what HAS BEEN going on philosophically. It’s a strategy that begins within a certain limit in order to win over some to the larger perspective of what is really happening.

    Let’s face it; the Darwinists are not listening to our philosophy. They want us to demnostrate ID empirically – well, that might not be quite right, but that is what they keep demanding from us (I speak for the scientists as a non-scientist). Meyer (and others) seems to be giving them what they supposedly want.

    The Darwinists are using what I would call a paradoxical tactic. They don’t think we have the goods, so they are challenging us to produce them, in order to prove that we don’t have them. I’m familiar with this tactic, as I use it a lot in behavioral health. When I have a person who is obviously seeking my attention through the threat of negative and destructive behavior, by saying: “if you don’t give me such and such, I’m going to do such and such;” they are accostomed to people responding: “oh, please don’t do such and such,” or “if you don’t do such and such, I’ll let you have such and such.” The paradoxical response is to not give them what they expect. I do that by saying. “Go ahead and do such and such, we’ll deal with whatever you decide to do.” Usually the response is to not do the threatened behavior, because I challenged them to go ahead and do it. The Darwinists do not believe us nor trust us. They do not believe that we are going to “do such and such” (produce evidence for design). Why? Because they believe they have evolution all warpped up and bagged. So they challenge us to produce the goods because they don’t think we could possibly have them.

    It does us no good to start with the philosophical arguments if their attention is on how we handle their empirically defined demands. We should deliver the goods, and indeed, ID theorists have been and continue to do so. Of course, they will reinterpret, and have been reinterpreting the evidence to further support Darwinism – that is to be expected; but ultimately truth will prevail because eventually some will catch on to the tactics, and that realization will grow exponentially. And this will ultimately redefine the parameters of how science is accepted among a much broader group, because we have brought in some theists and atheists, who normally argue outside of science, into the picture.

    Sorry, I always try to look at the broader picture – not suggesting that you don’t.

  10. 10
    CannuckianYankee

    Frost,

    My response in 9 was to 7, and not 8. apparently we were both typing at the same time and you beat me to the punch. :)

  11. 11
    CannuckianYankee

    Frost,

    “Secondly, the most powerful part of his argument is the part about the functions of the DNA and the coding of the proteins and such- that is how the digital code is actualized.”

    What makes that argument powerful is in relation to origin of life questions. If the basic building blocks of life require the information first, where does the information come from? The DNA couldn’t have developed into an information processing center without there first being an information processing center elsewhere. Where is the mechanism that processed the information necessary for life before the DNA? Furthermore, where is the mechanism for the processing of information prior to that point?

    That’s the infinite regress problem again, which Darwinism does not satisfactorily address.

  12. Interesting video, I’m not sure he really needs to talk about Evolution or darwinism as much as he does. As he concedes Evolutionary theory isn’t a theory about the origin of life and Darwin didn’t try to address it himself.

    Meyer’s is limiting ID to a theory on the origin of life, or more specifically the origin of information but I thought it was a shame that he didn’t give a more detailed account of what he meant by information. I can see some scientists objecting to his use of the term without drawing a line between his definition and that devised by Shannon for Information Theory.

  13. Excession,

    I have started reading the book “Signature of the Cell”.

    I am still in the first chapter but it seems that the early chapters rehash/ combine most of his previous thoughts and writings on the subject.

    Information is neither matter nor energy.

    A blank disk weighs as much as a disk loaded with an OS and apps.

    Information is what allows us to communicate.

    It is what allows us to produce things.

    Information is what makes us what we are.

    Shannon’s theory doesn’t concern itself with content.

    To Shannon 1 million bits of random characters has more “information” than 900,000 bits of any operational computer prohram.

    And yet that 1 million bits doesn’t contain any information at all.

  14. 14
    Granville Sewell

    Signature in the Cell is currently #1200 or so on Amazon. Granted it just came out, but still quite impressive.

  15. Joseph-13

    Thanks but I was hoping for a definition that is a bit more formal, at least from a mathematical point of view.

    A blank disk weighs as much as a disk loaded with an OS and apps.

    So information is related to state rather than quantity of matter – although presumably you need stuff before you can have information, for example the number of bits you can store on a given disk platter is related to its size and mass.

    Put it another way, can you have information without matter or energy?

  16. I have to say it was the technical aspect of the presentation that disappointed me. Does the Heritage institute not own a lapel microphone so that you can hear the speaker when he leaves the podium?

    Was there nobody manning a camera to track Dr. Meyer as he went to the unseen screen, and at least show what was on the screen at that time? Occasionally the technician seemed to wake up and show a slide or two.

  17. Excession,

    I’m sure you can have potential information yet to be expressed without matter or energy. Akin to how you can have potential energy vs. kinetic energy. And with this perhaps matter and energy themselves are contingent upon information in that they are bits of information in various forms of expression.

  18. After all, I’m sure the total configuration of all of the physical systems in the universe were predefined by something. Everything from the inverse square effect of gravity to the angular momentum of subatomic particles must be incredibly accurate and stable in order for the universe to exist as it does. I think this begs the question; could such entities exist without there first being the information that defines how they operate?

  19. PaulN:

    I’m sure you can have potential information yet to be expressed without matter or energy.

    Can you give an example?

  20. Is the big bang sufficient enough?

  21. I’m sorry that sentence contained a redundancy. Let me rephrase.

    Is the big bang sufficient?

  22. Are you saying that the Big Bang was preceded by “potential information”? Can you explain what that means?

  23. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make it sound like the information itself was potential, but rather I was referring to the expression of information that could be characterized as such. As in “potentially expressed information,” analogous to how energy is stored in its potential state before it is expressed as kinetic energy.

  24. Basically I’m referring to the big bang as a massive expression of information.

  25. An expression of dormant information that preceded matter and energy to be exact.

  26. PaulN, I can buy that. Although I’m curious as to what form this information took. Whatever the answer, I probably wouldn’t understand it.

  27. Well it necessarily couldn’t be in the form matter or energy before either existed. I think Stephen Meyer is trying to say that latent information doesn’t necessarily have a coherent physical/chemical/energy form before it is expressed, but does make for a coherent and meaningful product in physical reality in some way shape or form after the fact. Such is where the blank disc vs. data-rich disc analogy came from.

    My reasoning is that matter and energy themselves must be contingent upon orderly and meaningfully expressed information in order for the universe to exist as it does, especially all in one shot (the big bang). Therefore for the naturalist, believing that matter and energy are all that exist and define reality, it would necessarily be impossible to make sense before conceding to an additional inherent property of matter and energy known as information.

  28. 28

    About the “God of the Gaps” argument that was discussed at the end of the lecture: I think that there are really two (overlapping) versions of this argument. One of them is a straw man argument and the other relies on a logical fallacy.

    The first (straw man) version goes something like: “You don’t understand how life could have originated, so you just throw up your hands and say, ‘God did it’”. It is a straw man argument because as Meyer (and many others have) pointed out, that simply isn’t the argument. This is the version that Meyer answered at the end of the lecture.

    The second version goes: “Throughout history people have attributed what they don’t understand to God, but then science has explained it, so why do you think this will be any different? Just give science a little more time and it will explain the origin of life, too.” (This was actually the version that was stated by the questioner.) The logical fallacy is the unstated assumption that the past necessarily predicts the future. Each case must be evaluated on its own merits. The fact that science has in the past explained some things that were attributed to divine action logically has no bearing whatsoever on what is the correct explanation of the phenomenon under consideration (the origin of biological information).

  29. I think a good analogy would be a modern video game, where you see the compiled code(information) driving and defining the physics and gameplay, instead of the other way around. Of course our goal is to eventually reach the point where to we can fully simulate reality, our make our own realities accordingly, which is quite suggestive about the human mind if you think about it.

  30. PaulN:
    I’m sure you can have potential information yet to be expressed without matter or energy. Akin to how you can have potential energy vs. kinetic energy.
    You can’t have potential energy without matter, thats practically the definition of potential energy so they are not kin.

    I work with computer simulations and GA’s so I’m quite amenable to the idea that we are simulations to another’s reality. I’m still struggling to understand what Meyer information actually is though, at least beyond just being like some stuff that humans produce.

  31. Bruce David (on “god of the gaps”):

    The second version goes: “Throughout history people have attributed what they don’t understand to God, but then science has explained it, so why do you think this will be any different? Just give science a little more time and it will explain the origin of life, too.” (This was actually the version that was stated by the questioner.) The logical fallacy is the unstated assumption that the past necessarily predicts the future. Each case must be evaluated on its own merits. The fact that science has in the past explained some things that were attributed to divine action logically has no bearing whatsoever on what is the correct explanation of the phenomenon under consideration (the origin of biological information.

    I’m not sure if the questioner would be assuming that the past necessarily predicts the future, rather than making a less definite observation that we can, and often do, learn from experience. There’s no logical fallacy involved in that observation.

    To put the point another way, there are many things in the universe that we haven’t explained, why be selective about the origin of life on earth?

    In historical science, I’m sure we don’t have a really detailed step by step formation of the planet and its various features, like tectonic plates, for example. So, why not argue for a role for the intelligent designers there, or is there enough natural “information” around to form a complex planet?

    Outside historical science, the earth’s weather systems are incredibly complicated, depending on the interactions of many factors, and there are many gaps in our understanding, so why have we done away with the traditional weather controlling gods, but still want to put gods in gaps elsewhere?

    But there’s another thing that puzzles me about Christians like Meyer. He believes that the universe was created, so, presumably this means that everything in it is, in a sense, intelligently designed. How, then, does he do design detection?

    The implication would seem to be that he would be detecting adjustments that weren’t in the original design; points where his god needed to break his own rules.

    Other theists seem to opt for a god who, like Meyer’s god, wants life, but who got the universe right in the first place, hence abiogenesis and chemical evolution as a natural part of it for some Christians.

    Either way, I can’t see how Meyer’s ideas can make any difference to science. The naturalists will keep on doing OOL research, and ignore him, to be honest, just as they did his many predecessors, like this guy:

    “No physical hypothesis founded on any indisputable fact has yet explained the origin of the primordial protoplasm, and, above all, of its marvellous properties, which render evolution possible—in heredity and in adaptability, for these properties are the cause and not the effect of evolution. For the cause of this cause we have sought in vain among the physical forces which surround us, until we are at last compelled to rest upon an independent volition, a far-seeing intelligent design.”

    George James Allman (Paleyite botanist) 1873.

    Nothing new, really. Note the interesting two words at the end.

  32. 32

    iconofid:

    If you really want to know why Meyer singles out the origin of life from the other examples you mentioned (plate techtonics, weather, etc.), you should watch the video or read the book. He explains it quite clearly.

    Briefly, it is that in life there is a crucial element that is absent from the examples you cite: information. Lots and lots and lots of information. Information that is coded, arranged in hierarchical files, and which directs the cellular processes. The very nature of information (Its ordering cannot be determined by physical law, it is so highly improbable that the probablistic resources of the entire universe couldn’t have produced it, and it guides or performs some function.) means that natural processes could not have produced it. The only known source of information in the Universe is an intelligent agent.

  33. The way I see it, exponential explosion is an impossible wall to climb. It effectively refutes all naturalistic explananations for the origin and evolution of life. Darwinian evolution is therefore dead on arrival even before it rears its stupid head. Darwinists, atheists and materialists are actors in a theatre of the absurd and the author of their play is obviously mathematically challenged.

    The argument that information requires an intelligent designer is just icing on the cake at this stage of the game.

  34. “Briefly, it is that in life there is a crucial element that is absent from the examples you cite: information. Lots and lots and lots of information.”

    Again, a clear and formal definition would help us understand how to distinguish between the configuration of a biological system from, for example, the weather system on Venus.

    “Its ordering cannot be determined by physical law,

    Is this based on empirical evidence or is it still an hypothesis?

    “…it is so highly improbable that the probabilistic resources of the entire universe couldn’t have produced it”

    I think the correct way of putting that would be “have a low probability of” and not “couldn’t”. But this does depend on how you do the calculations, given how much we don’t know about complex chemical systems it is hard to see how you can determine the probability of replicators, or anything else, forming in them.

    I’m guessing that Meyer is referring not to specific configurations of matter and energy but to a specific class of configurations. I want to know how to identify the boundary between this and other classes of configuration.

    “The only known source of information in the Universe is an intelligent agent.”

    Again without a formal definition I can’t quite agree to that. It is true that certain configurations of matter are only known to be produced by humans, and that we classify ourselves as “intelligent agents”.

  35. Bruce David:

    The only known source of information in the Universe is an intelligent agent

    Aren’t these supposed only known intelligent sources of information all dependent on its pre-existence in a highly organized state?

    Like others, I have trouble seeing what can and cannot be described as information. Surely any chemical autocatalyst contains the information to reproduce itself, and we know that this can come about without an intelligent agent.

  36. How many times do we have to repeat this stupidity about information. Take any common definition about information and it will work. The cell has a unique form of information, FSCI.

    Information can be anything that refers to something. In computers we have 0′s and 1′s used to describe various states. The 0′s and 1′s are information. The various states are information. A sentence is information. A single letter is information. The order of the letters is information. A data point of anything is information. The report that the Carthaginian troops are organizing for an attack is information or that Hannibal has returned from Italy is information.

    The components of a rock is information. The specific molecule by molecule layout of a rock is information. The place where the rock was found and its orientation is information. In the cell DNA sequences are information and each individual nucleotide is information.

    The cell as mentioned above has a unique type of information, namely FSCI. It is not hard to understand and has been recognized by biology for over 40 years and serves as basis for a major subfield. Biology departments employ thousands of statisticians and experts in Bioinformatics. I suggest anyone interested read about it.

    To suggest that this is not a well understood concept is ludicrous. Do we know everything there is about every type of information and how to use it? No, but it is a simple idea we use all the time and much of the information contained in a genome is a unique type of information only seen in intelligent activity. It has never appeared in existence other than in life or due to intelligent origins.

    We are using this type of information on this blog and we never think twice about it.

  37. “Do we know everything there is about every type of information and how to use it? No, but it is a simple idea we use all the time and much of the information contained in a genome is a unique type of information only seen in intelligent activity. It has never appeared in existence other than in life or due to intelligent origins.”

    We don’t ‘know’ that the configuration of matter in the genome is the result of intelligence. The only example we have of information in a broadly similar class to this is that produced by humans. It is a big step to go from there to concluding that the genome MUST have an intelligent origin. A more reasonable step is actually to conclude that the genome is something that humans might be able to design.

  38. “We don’t ‘know’ that the configuration of matter in the genome is the result of intelligence. The only example we have of information in a broadly similar class to this is that produced by humans. It is a big step to go from there to concluding that the genome MUST have an intelligent origin. A more reasonable step is actually to conclude that the genome is something that humans might be able to design.”

    That is close to the ID position. ID does not say the genome “must” be designed by an intelligence. The ID position is that there is a very good possibility that the genome was designed by an intelligence. If anything it is the anti ID people who are unreasonable and absolute who say that it never happened and cannot be considered and one “must” only consider non intelligent causes.

    Few in the biological community doubt that humans will have the capability of designing a genome in the near future. That may not happen but now the conventional wisdom is that it will happen.

  39. IMO, any discussion about the nature and purpose of information must include the work of Claude Shannon, the father of information theory.

    Essentially, information requires a sender and a receiver. Both must be in agreement as to the meaning of the symbols used. For example, Egyptian hierogliphics were meaningless (contained no information) for centuries, even though it was obvious to all that they were not just random markings.

    Unless information can be coded and decoded according to a preset pattern and preset rules understood by both coder and decoder, it is useless. Obviously, coding and decoding information requires intelligence. As a result, if DNA is a meaningful code, it could only exist if it was devised by an intelligent coder.

  40. Both Dembski and Meyer define information quite rigorously (I’m not going to repeat the definitions here. If you are really interested in understanding it, and not just in attacking something you don’t understand, I suggest you read their works), and by definition, it cannot be produced by natural law, and by definition, the probability of its occurrence by chance is so small as to make that virtually impossible. If a natural law were discovered that somehow could have produced it (or increased the probability of its occurrence sufficiently), then it would no longer qualify as information (by their definitions). The information stored in the DNA of any cell satisfies their definitions.

    By the way, the definition that both Dembski and Meyer use is not Shannon information, because it includes the notion of being specified, which means that it can be described independently of itself.

    What is going on here is that Meyer and Dembski are making a rigorous argument to demonstrate what is blazingly obvious to anyone who has studied the cell in any depth at all and WHO IS NOT ALREADY COMMITTED TO A MATERIALIST POINT OF VIEW: the cell is clearly a product of engineering. You can’t look at these miracles of nanotechnology and the information stored and used therein without immediately concluding that they were designed and constructed by a brilliant engineer (or engineers). The ONLY reason to reject that conclusion is if you reject a priori the possibility that such an engineer could have existed.

    What this means to me is that if you believe that the cell did arise through some kind of unguided natural process, it is up to you to prove it. I don’t mean that you have to prove it here and now, rather I mean that the burden of proof is on those who reject the explanation that the cell was designed.

    In other words, until and unless a clear and compelling demonstration that the first cell arose by natural processes is produced, by far the most reasonable explanation of its existence is that it was designed and created by an intelligent agent or agents.

  41. Bruce David:

    By the way, the definition that both Dembski and Meyer use is not Shannon information, because it includes the notion of being specified, which means that it can be described independently of itself.

    Dembski’s specified complexity is the minimum Shannon self-information in a certain composite event. The definition of that composite event includes Dembski’s concept of specificity. As far as I know, Dembski has never produced a closed definition of specificity, so I’ll have to disagree with the claim of rigor.

    As far as Meyer’s rigorous definition of information, there’s no need to copy it here, but can you at least provide a reference?

    The ONLY reason to reject that conclusion is if you reject a priori the possibility that such an engineer could have existed.

    Contrary to this claim, there are people who have an a priori belief in a divine Creator, but do not consider your reasoning to be valid justification for this belief.

  42. Bruce David:

    What this means to me is that if you believe that the cell did arise through some kind of unguided natural process, it is up to you to prove it.

    Or else … what? That’s not bravado — it’s a sincere question.

    One can always argue that the burden of proof is on the other side. But pragmatically, the onus is on the side that seeks to change the status quo. If that isn’t what the ID community seeks, then by all means, it should keep talking about what the scientific community should be doing, while refusing to meet the challenges leveled in the other direction.

  43. R0b, you said: “But pragmatically, the onus is on the side that seeks to change the status quo.”

    This is how the scientific establishment would have it, because it makes it much easier to maintain the status quo in the face of increasing evidence to the contrary.

    However, it seems to me that the burden of proof lies with those who seek to contradict the obvious.

  44. R0b, you said: “But pragmatically, the onus is on the side that seeks to change the status quo.”

    This is how the scientific establishment would have it

    Whether or not the scientific establishment would have it that way, and whether or not it’s fair, that’s how it is. If you don’t believe me, just keep assigning the burden to the scientific community, and see if ID ever gains any traction.

  45. Mr Mapou,

    As a result, if DNA is a meaningful code, it could only exist if it was devised by an intelligent coder.

    No, it could be the outcome of an evolutionary competition between coevolutionary teams. Teams that understand each other better outcompete teams with less workable code.

  46. Mr. Nakashima, could you give an example of how this could be?

    “No, it could be the outcome of an evolutionary competition between coevolutionary teams. Teams that understand each other better outcompete teams with less workable code.”

  47. Mapou:

    Obviously, coding and decoding information requires intelligence.

    So the process of gene expression is intelligent?

  48. Rob,
    “So the process of gene expression is intelligent?:

    A question much more to the point would be

    “So is the process of gene expression necessarily created by intelligence, given that we don’t understand RNA and DNA and gene expression?”

    We observe no set up system where non intelligence codes and decodes.

  49. Mr Lamarck,

    How could our current and temporary state of ignorance be the context to understand that anything is ‘necessarily’ the case?

  50. Mr. Nakashima, it was a question and not my opinion, I know it’s not known.

  51. 51
    William J. Murray

    Rob:

    The burden of proof is on anyone who makes a claim. The “status quo” claims that these cell structures, and the information they represent, was generated by natural law and chance.

    Not only has this never been demonbstrated; it has never been shown to be remotely possible. It is assumed via ideology to be the case. If we challenge the “status quo” to produce their proof, it is incumbent upon them to produce it.

    It is not the job of the challenger to “disprove” an assumption for which no evidence or proof is offered. Claiming some right of “status quo” to be absolved of supporting one’s own claims is religioous fanaticism, not proper science.

    And yes, by continuing to clamor for the “status quo” scientific community to support thier assertions, and their failing to do so, and their failing to meet the argument but instead choosing to hide from the challenge through policy and law is a method of “gaining traction”, because while close-minded funda-materialists will never change their view, those with less calcified vision will see the problems revealed by such refusal and misdirection.

    So, by all means, keep insisting that the “status quo” is not required to support its assertions.

  52. Nakashima:

    Mr Mapou,

    As a result, if DNA is a meaningful code, it could only exist if it was devised by an intelligent coder.

    No, it could be the outcome of an evolutionary competition between coevolutionary teams. Teams that understand each other better outcompete teams with less workable code.

    Well, it seems that what we have here is a little self-referential nightmare. DNA is necessary for the evolution of life and yet it cannot come to existence unless it evolves. Something is fishy in this picture.

  53. One minor point: Darwin’s face has been on the back of the £10 note for years – it’s got nothing to do with 2009 being the 150th anniversary of OOS being published.

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